You could have probably second-guessed us following up the question “how long does an F1 race last” with “how long is a piece of string”? It’s true though that not every race can last the same amount of time, nor the same number of laps. Grand Prix races are designed to be staged at a particular distance or race time, using average car speeds, usually working out at around 80-100 minutes for the typical track. Basically then, we work on Formula One Grands Prix around one and a half hours long, though there are plenty of track specifics to keep in mind.
The rule that really counts here is this one: Formula One races must take place over a minimum distance of 305km or 190 miles. With that in mind, calculations are needed for the number of laps required at each circuit. As this is just a minimum, we don’t always cover 305km only and some races go on longer than others due to various circumstances.
The famous track at Spa in Belgium, for example, is some 7km long. With that, only 44 laps are needed to get beyond the 305km minimum distance. 71 laps are needed at Interlagos in Brazil, where the circuit is tighter and shorter. In dry conditions, a 305km Grand Prix will take roughly 90 minutes. The time taken to finish the race naturally goes up the slower the cars go – i.e., when the rain hits or when there is a crash and the safety car has to be deployed. In terms of time, the faster the cars can go over 305+ kilometres, the quicker the race can finish.
The Monte Carlo Grand Prix
The Monaco Grand Prix, staged on the streets of Monte Carlo, is exceptional in many ways. One of those ways is the distance covered which is not standard. Monaco in fact is the only exception to the 305km rule. As the most famous F1 race of all, the field covers 260km only across some 78 laps.
Despite covering only 85% of the distance used at other circuits, the Monaco Grand Prix is still often two hours long and offers more entertainment for watchers than other races. Gear changes are much more frequent here and the turns are tight. This leads to lower average speeds around the street circuit laid out in the famous principality and it is highly unlikely to ever be changed.
Maximum Race Length Rules
While the typical Grand Prix lasts around 90 minutes, the rule is that regardless of race distance it must not exceed two hours. Should the race distance and number of laps not be reached, usually because of safety issues or bad weather, and the two-hour time limit comes up, then the race must end at the completion of the next full lap. There are exceptions, however. For example, if a race has been stopped by a red flag situation, then the total time, including the stoppage, cannot exceed three hours. This, however, is very rare.
The Longest Formula One Races
Based on race distance, the longest Grand Prix ever was the 1951 race in France. Just under 602km were covered in the French Grand Prix with 77 laps being covered of the Reims-Gueux track in the Alfa Romeo shared by Juan Manuel Fangio and Luigi Fagioli. After that, in 1954, came the longest ever F1 race with no stoppages. The German Grand Prix, which was won again by Fangio, covered 22 laps of the Nurburgring. It took 3 hours, 45 minutes but isn’t quite the longest Grand Prix ever in terms of time.
That accolade belongs to the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix. Back then, the safety car was brought out six separate times and there was a prolonged red flag period. In the end, the slowest F1 race ever was covered by winner Jenson Button at just 74.86km per hour and took 4 hours, 4 minutes.
The longest race in modern F1 history without a red flag was the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix. 61 laps had been scheduled, but only 58 could be covered when the time limit was reached. Two hours and three minutes after it started, Lewis Hamilton took the race.
The Shortest Formula One Race
The shortest F1 race of all time, beating a 30-year record, came as recently as 2021 in Belgium. There, the rain pelted down persistently meaning no real racing took place at all. Instead, three laps were covered behind the safety car in order to constitute a result. Essentially, the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix was a washout.
Track-By-Track F1 Race Distances
The circuits used in Formula One can and do change occasionally. Using the 2022 season as a good guide, however, this is how many laps were needed to cover each track along with how long each race took:
|Bahrain Grand Prix||Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir||308.2km||57||1:37:33.584|
|Saudi Arabian Grand Prix||Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Jeddah||308.45km||50||1:24:19.293|
|Australian Grand Prix||Albert Park Circuit, Melbourne||306.12km||58||1:27:46.548|
|Emilia Romagna Grand Prix||Imola Circuit, Imola||309.04km||63||1:32:07.986|
|Miami Grand Prix||Miami International Autodrome, Miami Gardens||308.32km||57||1:34:24.258|
|Spanish Grand Prix||Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Montmelo||308.55km||66||1:37:20.475|
|Monaco Grand Prix||Circuit de Monaco, Monaco||260.28km||64||1:56:30.265|
|Azerbaijan Grand Prix||Baku City Circuit, Baku||306.04km||51||1:34:05.941|
|Canadian Grand Prix||Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal||305.27km||70||1:36:21.757|
|British Grand Prix||Silverstone Circuit, Silverstone||306.19km||52||2:17:50.311|
|Austrian Grand Prix||Red Bull Ring, Spielberg||306.45km||71||1:24:24.312|
|French Grand Prix||Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet||309.62km||53||1:30:02.112|
|Hungarian Grand Prix||Hungaroring, Mogyorod||306.63km||70||1:39:35.912|
|Belgian Grand Prix||Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Stavelot||308.05km||44||1:25:52.894|
|Dutch Grand Prix||Circuit Zandvoort, Zandvoort||306.58km||72||1:36:42.773|
|Italian Grand Prix||Monza Circuit, Monza||306.72km||53||1:20:27.511|
|Singapore Grand Prix||Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore||308.70km||59||2:02:20.238|
|Japanese Grand Prix||Suzuka International Racing Course, Suzuka||307.47km||28||3:01:44.044|
|United States Grand Prix||Circuit of the Americas, Austin||308.40km||56||1:42:11.687|
|Mexico City Grand Prix||Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico City||305.35km||71||1:38:36.729|
|Sao Paulo Grand Prix||Interlagos Circuit, Sao Paulo||305.87km||71||1:38:34.044|
|Abu Dhabi Grand Prix||Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi||306.18km||58||1:27:45.914|